Music Theatre alumni find success beyond the stage
Eric Mann ‘10 and Ryan James Monroe ‘16 are just two examples of Music Theatre graduates who have achieved success in careers outside of the spotlight.
After graduating from one of the top programs in the country, many Elon Music Theatre alumni have gone on to pursue successful careers performing on Broadway, in National Tours, and at professional theatres around the world.
However, not all MT graduates decide to make a living onstage.
Immediately after graduating from Elon in 2010, Eric Mann’s performance career took off. He toured the country as Mike in "A Chorus Line," joined Actor’s Equity Association and was cast in a show that was soon set to open on Broadway.
“It was everything I wished for,” said Mann. “But the show never made it, and it was almost a year until I got an acting job again.”
As simple as it sounds, it was his reading of a 20-year-old book that helped to chart a new course for him. “I began reading ‘The Artist’s Way,’ and it changed everything for me. The book taught me that I was in charge of my own artistic integrity," Mann said. "I could create, and I didn’t need someone’s permission to do it! So I picked up a camera, wrote a short film, taught myself how to film and edit, and made a terrible short film. The magic was not in the film though, it was in the act of creating from within, trusting that, and manifesting that into the world. It opened doors for me in ways that I couldn’t imagine.
“I had friends who started to contact me, and asked me to film their projects. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but because I did one little thing, that made me the ‘expert!’ Friends kept hiring me, and then companies and institutions started to hire me. I thought for sure they would find out I was a sham!”
However, Mann did not give up, and his persistence has certainly paid off. “Now, my company, Unreel Films, LLC, has been going strong for almost 5 years, and I have had the incredible privilege to be able to create almost every day for 5 years," Mann said. "This is truly an artist’s dream.”
Since its establishment in 2013, Unreel Films, LLC has created over 500 films and videos, including short films, documentaries/docuseries, promotional videos, music/dance videos, and wedding videos, while also filming frequently for The Juilliard School in New York City.
When asked how an Elon education helped prepare him for his career, Mann says that “Elon prepared me to keep seeking the truth and going deeper. You don’t really know what’s going to happen to you when you leave school, and you can’t possibly be 100 percent prepared. I think of my teachers who really opened doorways either emotionally or artistically at Elon, and how grateful I am for their insight and guidance. I also think of my friends, and how important their love and support means even when we journey away from each other. They are always there and that support is so important when you enter the ‘real world.’ Thank you, Elon!”
Ryan James Monroe’s journey since graduation has been equally inspiring. After receiving both a BFA in Music Theatre and a bachelor's in Arts Administration, Monroe moved to New York City and began working at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music as an arts leader, producing concerts and managing facilities. After a year and a half, Monroe was offered a job at The Public Theater, an art organization founded by the legendary Joe Papp, where Ryan now works as an operations associate, managing the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. At the Delacorte, Monroe helps produce Free Shakespeare in the Park, a New York institution that upholds Papp's belief that theatre and culture belong to everyone.
Even with his experience on stage, Monroe has had his eye on a career behind the scenes in arts leadership since even before attending Elon. “It’s been a dream of mine to work for The Public Theater since I was in high school and it’s so exciting to be running their Central Park theatre, which is where The Public Theater began,” Monroe says.
Much like Mann, Monroe feels that his time at Elon was paramount to his success. “At Elon, I was encouraged to find my own artistic vision and I was lucky enough to have professors and friends that helped me sharpen that vision," he says. "At Elon, not only do we create good artists, but really the goal is to create good people first. Since graduation, I have relied on my professors for guidance, my friends for everything from advice to apartments, and I know some of the most incredible people and artists with whom I constantly collaborate. The training I received from Elon has a foundation of truth and it is already evident that that same foundation is the core of my art and therefore, my success.”
Information about The Public Theater, including its 2018-19 season and Free Shakespeare in the Park, can be found at www.publictheater.org.